We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The IEA’s prescription for Brexit

Some critics of Leavers from the EU like to claim that Leavers don’t spell out the details of what Leave would mean, although that always struck me as disingenuous. Even so, it is good that the Institute of Economic Affairs has issued a paper on what a pro-liberty, pro-free market Brexit will look like:

“We have looked at Brexit in the wrong way, and in so doing we have hampered our ability to get a good deal with the EU. We must execute an independent trade and regulatory policy in order to capture gains from this process, and also to ensure that we have a better framework for negotiations with the EU. This plan offers comprehensive approach which shouldn’t be considered a ‘Plan B’, but rather a ‘Plan A+’ for Brexit.”

So says Shanker Singham, the Director of the IEA’s International Trade and Competition Unit, and co-author of the new IEA paper.

There is a lot of detail to chew over, but this is pretty manageable and sensible from where I can see it. The proposals ought, surely, to be studied closely by government ministers and it would be indeed scandalous if they have not been before. And that, of course, is the worry: Theresa May has, perhaps only now, come to a realisation that a “Brexit in name only” fudge is electoral suicide and a no-go diplomatically.

As an aside, three separate people, all Remainers, told me over the weekend that they were so disgusted by the blank refusal of EU heads of state to even bother considering May’s Chequers plan that it has made them feel that, if a referendum were held again, they’d vote Leave. These views are those of Londoners who work closely with the City, and have been the sort giving the EU the benefit of the doubt in the past. They no longer do so. That’s important.

Samizdata quote of the day

Hatred is a transformative power. It can make the innocuous into the menacing. So it has become a weapon of choice. The left has used hate to transform President Trump into a symbol of the new racism, not a flawed president but a systemic evil. And he must be opposed as one opposes racism, with a scorched-earth absolutism.

Shelby Steele, writing ‘Why the Left is consumed with hate’.

The Shadow Education Secretary wants to make teachers more vulnerable

The Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner MP (Lab), has called for a ban on anonymous online accounts.

The education spokesperson also called for social media companies to ban anonymous accounts, complaining at a fringe event organised by the Guardian in Liverpool that most of the people that abused her online did so without using their real names.

Rayner said that social media firms should take greater responsibility for their users and complained in particular that Facebook seemed to have indicated that politicians should accept a higher level of abuse.

When asked what she thought about social media, Rayner said: “One of the first things they should do is stop anonymous accounts. Most people who send me abuse me do so from anonymous accounts and wouldn’t dream of doing it in their own name.”

Rayner conceded that using real names would not stop abuse but “it would certainly help a little bit. I think they should do more, they do have a responsibility for online”.

As I mentioned earlier, Angela Rayner is the Shadow Education Secretary. That ought to mean that she is aware that teachers, like MPs, are often subject to harassment. The Times Educational Supplement had an article on that very subject just a few days ago: “Why your social account is not as private as you think”. It began:

The teacher’s Facebook account was set to private. She was certain of that. Yet, in the past week, she had received four friend requests from former pupils. She could not work out how they had found her.

So, as I am a researcher at the Greater Manchester Police – and her friend – she asked me to take a look. Within 10 minutes, I had not just found her, but I also had her full name, her partner’s name, the school she worked at, the name of one of her children and multiple images of the street she lives on.

The writer, Chris Glover, proceeded to give ten tips that teachers should employ to protect themselves: 1. Keep accounts separate. 2. Vary usernames. 3. Check posts about you. 4. Beware of public posts. 5. Review privacy settings. 6. Don’t follow your school account. 7. Avoid using your real name. 8. Change the friends-list setting. 9. Switch off location. 10. Delete dormant accounts.

Following the above advice should help ensure that teachers can enjoy participating in life online while minimising the very real risk of being tracked down by former or current pupils bearing a grudge, or simply by people whom it is best to keep at arms length for professional or safeguarding reasons.

Until a Labour government gets in and makes Nos. (2) and (7) illegal outright, and demands that all of your personal details are held in one place by a social media company so as to be conveniently available for hackers and identity thieves.

Support Corbyn and McDonnell to secure Brexit?

The Guardian reports,

John McDonnell: Labour wants to push ahead with Brexit

On eve of conference, shadow chancellor defies calls for party to promise second referendum

Labour would fight a snap general election vowing to press ahead with Brexit, but it would secure better terms, John McDonnell has said, defying demands from party members to include a second-referendum pledge in any manifesto.

Read the comments to that Guardian piece to get a sense of how well that goes down with most Labour members. The current top comment is:

Fine, well you do that Labour, and enjoy being in permanent opposition when remainers like me stop voting for you.

The next most recommended comment is:

For gods sake Labour. This was your chance and you’ve blown it. You’ve completely misread the way the wind is blowing and put your desire for hard-line socialism in front of taking care of the most vulnerable, which Brexit will hit the hardest. I despair with the state of things right now.

In all matters but one I am much closer to sympathy with folks like “ArchNemesis666” and “Stimpers” than with Corbyn or the self-proclaimed Marxist McDonnell. So why do I find myself beginning to wonder if it might not be best for the country that he and his see-no-evil “present but not involved” boss Corbyn retain the affections of their student fans in the Labour party for the foreseeable future?

For the UK as a whole, for many months now polls have given a slight majority for the idea that leaving the EU was a bad decision. We should expect this. After any vote there is usually a sense of buyer’s remorse. Those who got the result they wanted move on with their lives. Those who did not dwell bitterly on their loss and as a result dominate the conversation, prompting a switch by the least committed supporters of the winning side. This is why after most elections the new government has only a short honeymoon before it is overtaken in the polls by the Opposition. That can flip back quite fast if another election is called, as the general election of 2015 demonstrated.

So I am not moved by arguments that the few percentage points by which the answer “wrong” leads “right” to the question “Was it right or wrong to leave the EU?” in opinion polls means that “the people have changed their minds” and Brexit has lost its “democratic legitimacy”. On those grounds scarcely any government’s democratic legitimacy would last longer than a few weeks. It would become impossible for any government to get anything done… whoa, I could get into that idea. But I want it applied to equally to all sides.

So, as a matter of fact, if another EU referendum were held I would have good hope that Leave would win again on those grounds alone. Only a very small part of my visceral hatred of the idea of another referendum comes from the odds I give for my chosen side to win. There is more at stake.

The EU referendum was no ordinary vote. Its supporters waited forty years. They were not meant to win; in large part they were the disillusioned and disaffected who do not usually turn out to vote. But les miserables awoke from their slumber, an outcome the Left has always claimed to be its dearest desire. And they won.

Imagine a football game. The underdogs play the game of their lives and against the odds win the cup. Only the referee is in league with the favourites and finds a way to disallow the victory and force a rematch. There is consternation. “My dear chaps, no need to get so worked up,” says the chairman of the other team from his VIP box, “it’s not as if we are being given the cup without another match. You will have another chance.” And he smiles, because he knows that his side only has to win once.

We forget. Nations vote because civil war is expensive. Referendums are used when the sides are entrenched, well matched in size and compromise is impossible.

Does that seem melodramatic? Remainers are fond of pointing out that the Leave vote skews old. What are they gonna do, rise up in revolt from their Zimmer frames?

What people do not take into account is that the lesson that the result of a referendum will only be honoured when the government side wins will not only be learned by the Brexiteers. It will also be learned by supporters of any cause who are tempted to violence. In Northern Ireland, the IRA have accepted that Irish reunification can be striven for by the ballot rather than the bullet. What would be the effect on them of a demonstration that a majority vote will not necessarily be honoured by the British government?

John McDonnell is quite right:

“The debate around the next manifesto will go on, but I really worry about another referendum,” he said.

“I’m desperately trying to avoid any rise of xenophobia that happened last time around; I’m desperately trying to avoid giving any opportunity to Ukip or the far right. I think there’s the real risk of that. We’re not ruling out a people’s vote, but there’s a real risk, and I think people need to take that into account when we’re arguing for one.”

Grooming gangs in Rochdale and Rotherham raped with impunity and you won’t believe why!

I really should not have laughed out loud when reading an article by regular Times columnist Jenni Russell entitled “Women victims still can’t get a fair hearing”. These are serious matters. Judge me not; this bit would get a laugh out of a stone:

Even men without high standing tend to be seen as more credible than the women they attack. That’s why grooming gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham and many other towns could rape girls with impunity over years, as police and social services dismissed it. “Believe the men,” has always been the instinctive, effective, protective response of the male-dominated power structure.

The grooming gangs in Rochdale and Rotherham had an “identity” trump card all right, one that sent the police and social services scurrying away with their tails between their legs. And it did begin with M. Perhaps Ms Russell could ask her Times colleague Andrew Norfolk what the following letters were?

The rest of the article is about US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, recently accused of attempting to rape Christine Blasey Ford thirty-six years ago when he was seventeen and she was fifteen. She made this claim a couple of months ago in a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D). However it seems to have slipped Senator Feinstein’s mind to bring the issue up during the weeks of nomination hearings convened for the express purpose of assessing Kavanaugh’s suitability to be a Supreme Court judge. As this letter (Hat tip: Instapundit) from the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, says,

There were numerous opportunities to raise the serious allegations made in the letter during the course of this nomination process.They could have been raised in your closed-door meeting with Judge Kavanaugh on August 20.Sixty-four other senators also met with Judge Kavanaugh prior to his confirmation hearing. These senators could have asked Judge Kavanaugh about these allegations if you had shared the letter.

Your staff could have raised these allegations during routine background investigation phone calls in late-August. Questions about these allegations could have been asked of Judge Kavanaugh during his more than 32 hours of testimony before the Committee over the course of three days. You could have asked him about these allegations during the closed session of his confirmation hearing, where sensitive material can be discussed. But you did not attend the closed session. Finally, these allegations could have been addressed in one of the nearly 1,300 written questions issued to him after the hearing-more written questions to any Supreme Court nominee than all prior Supreme Court nominees combined.

Fortunately Senator Feinstein did eventually remember to bring up this allegation, just in time. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? It’s like the way I only just remembered to tell you about the rest of Jenni Russell’s article in the Times for the benefit of those who don’t have a subscription. It did make one point with which all should agree. Professor Ford has been subjected to harassment and threats. These should be treated like the crimes they are. Apart from that, well, let us say that the evidence for Jenni Russell’s instinctive, effective, protective response being “Believe the women” is a great deal stronger than the evidence that the Muslim grooming gangs in Rochdale and Rotherham raped with impunity because they were men. Russell writes,

Dr Ford’s life has been shipwrecked. She has had so many death threats that she has had to go into hiding, take leave of absence from work, send her children away and employ security guards. No such danger has troubled Kavanaugh, who has a security detail provided by the state and whose wife has been giving out cupcakes to the camera crews outside their house.

No such danger has troubled Kavaugh? Given how close left winger James T. Hodgkinson came to killing House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in his attempt to massacre as many Republicans as he could at a charity baseball game between politicians, I would not dismiss the danger so lightly. And of course, Kavanaugh’s wife handing out cupcakes shows how untroubled she is at having her husband accused of rape. Why should that trouble her? Why should it trouble him? How can they be treated unjustly? They’re Republicans!

Samizdata quote of the day

The correct answer is that the BBC can go boil their heads.

Tim Worstall

“The European Commission only has to win once”

Following on from Johnathan Pearce’s recent post about the EU Copyright Directive, I found this comment by a user called Ask_Me_Who in Reddit Europe. It dates from the first turn of the ratchet, back in June, but in the light of what has happened since it is more relevant than ever:

MEP’s can not create, amend, or reject proposals. They can act as a method of slowing them, requesting changes or rethinks of proposed policies, but if the other (unelected) parts of the EU want to force through a proposal they can just keep pushing it until it gets through in the knowledge that elected MEP’s will not have the power to propose future updates, changes, or abolition of legislation.

The European Commission only has to win once and it can never be repealed without the European Commission wishing it so. The people, as represented by elected MEP officials, have to win every time as they do not even have the option to vote in representatives to reverse a decision. This is the ‘democratic deficit’ that even pro-EU supporters widely acknowledge when they call for democratic reforms to the MEP system.

If you want to bring up the UK, the European Parliament works similarly to the House of Lords. The difference being that the Lord’s have been deliberately striped of much of their power specifically because they do not represent the people, while the MEP’s have never been given the power needed to actually represent the people.

EDIT- And if you think that’s depressing, since the Treaty of Lisbon (2007) lobbying has been an officially recognised and encouraged part of MEP’s decision process under the re-brand “European interest representation”. 30% of former MEP’s go on to work as lobbyists for major industries. Yeah, the people who only have to slip up once can accept weekly fancy dinners and then go on to make €€€ working for companies who give zero shits about what general public’s well-being.

Another example of the EU ratchet in action. No wonder they adopted the use of the neverendum so readily.

Film Review – Hurricane

Hurricane opened recently, I went to see it with the Sage of Kettering. The film tells the story of the Polish 303 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. The film starts with Polish pilots working their way to England in the chaos of falling France. One pilot, with some Swiss ancestry, pretends to be a Swiss Swiss watch salesman, another steals a biplane from a French airforce aerodrome, a fine Czech pilot is also in the Squadron. They end up at RAF Northolt, sharing the base with a plotting station and hence a large number of WAAF personnel, with predictable consequences.

The Poles appear to be a ramshackle lot, lacking the discipline and bearing that the RAF expects. A Canadian officer is given the apparently thankless task of knocking them into what the RAF would recognise as ‘shape’, the pilots (many very experienced and some aces) are frustrated as they are kept back from action whilst they learn English and how to manage their fine steeds. There is some humour as a truculent Warrant Officer is brilliantly mis-translated by one of the pilots as he barks to his colleagues.

It should be said that whilst the Hurricane, Sir Sydney Camm’s wonderful, chubby little puncher is the nominal star of the film, with it featuring in all the fighting and airfield scenes, it hardly gets any mentions, except a passing comment that a pilot thinks it is wonderful. They start off with training flights and escorting Blenheim bombers (There is still one flying in the UK, for what those guys went through, here is a 1989 documentary). Some of the Polish pilots are sent off to bombers, despite their experience. From what I have read, at the time, RAF training didn’t include simulating combat or even gun firing for some pilots. The Poles harmonise their guns at around 150 yards, because they like to get close before firing.

After a bit of indisciplined flying (breaking mission orders by going to attack German aircraft), the squadron is declared operational and success starts to come, one pilot has the foresight to make a rudimentary chapel in an old hut. News of their success spreads, Air Chief Marshal Dowding and Sir Keith Park discuss the squadron and are pleased with it (there are no politicians in this film). They are not introduced, and the actor playing Dowding looks a bit more like Park than he does Dowding imho, but you eventually find out who they are).

The Poles have a constant awareness of the horrors being visited on their homeland, going to the Polish government-in-exile offices for invariably bad news of relatives executed, which the film shows in grim ‘flashback’, one shot by firing squad, another NKVD-style, another hanged. The contrast with the attitude of the British, who seem to regard the war almost as an unpleasantness is brought out with a trip to the Dorchester where Society ladies treat the pilots to a reception in their honour, which turns out to be an awkward occasion. A press visit to the Squadron ends with one reporter getting punched for ghoulishness. The generally good publicity leads Dowding to hope out loud that it might induce friendly volunteer pilots from overseas to turn up and help. Relations with the Poles and British crews aren’t good at the start, but they improve. May I digress? There is a little bit of a sub-plot with a passing incident of ‘domestic violence’ towards a WAAF, which may explain why there was an advert in the trailers for Women’s Aid, which to me gave the misleading impression that only men commit domestic violence, the man in the trailer hits the woman, but he vapes rather than smokes, you can’t show really bad things you know. In the film, everyone seems to smoke, well, not when refuelling.

The film suffers a bit in the depiction of aerial combat, the CGI has an old video game feel to it at times, and we appear to be seeing the same scenes over and over again. As the film goes on, they start to take casualties, some get horribly burned, some crack up and can’t get themselves to kill Germans. The film does not pretty-fy the war, it does get across the burning hatred that the pilots had for those who had destroyed their homeland. At one point, a British officer says that they will be back in Warsaw soon, and the Sage and I muttered ‘1989’ and ‘1990’.

The film skips forward to the end of the War once the Battle of Britain concludes, the characters not apparently any older 5 years on, and the Poles are excluded from Victory Parade, and they are fully aware of what Stalin is doing to Poland, and they are told that they are to be booted out and sent home, one of the Attlee government’s choicer crimes, but it turned out that many were allowed to stay or emigrate to a third country. Some of the pilots are seen in Civvy Street, one a newspaper vendor (apparently people used to buy newspapers). It cites an opinion poll stating that 56% of the British population wanted the Poles to be sent back to Stalin’s new Poland.

The film is a great tribute to those fine men and their ground crews and it’s well worth seeing if you get the chance. It’s better than Dunkirk, with its wet Bank Holiday at the seaside feel, if not as tense as Darkest Hour.

And we saw the film in Corby, after a fine carvery in Rockingham. Corby is perhaps a strong contender for the most soulless town in Britain, a riot of 1960s and newer architecture, complete with its own ‘mass hero’, the Steelworker. We go there, so you don’t have to. It does however, name a square for James Ashworth VC.

In order of priority

“Comicsgate is the latest front in the ongoing culture wars”, writes J A Micheline in the… I don’t really need to say it, do I?

The results of both the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election relied heavily (if not, solely) on the narrative of white loss and the tears of the white working class – while conveniently eliding the needs of working-class people of colour and what they stood to lose.

How can such events be combated? How can they be undone? But these are the wrong questions. Merely combating or undoing Comicsgate, Brexit, and the flourishing of American fascism is not enough.

The great battles of our time.

“I’ve long said that capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without Hell.”

A quote attributed to USAF Colonel Frank Borman, the oldest living astronaut, businessman, one of the first men to orbit the Moon. He sounds like a splendid chap. This ‘b’ word is of course, is anathema to many in the political elite, as RBS limps on after a decade of State support, and many of the forecasting errors of a decade ago remain unliquidated. As others have noted, just as when a tree falls the light let in through the canopy allows new blooms.

But coming back to our hero, he has recently given an interview on his impressions of his time as an astronaut. He seems to be have set a high bar to be impressed.

“When asked if it was ‘cool’ to fly around weightless, Colonel Borman replied: ‘No.’

He said it was interesting to watch ‘maybe for the first 30 seconds, then it became accepted.’

And Colonel Borman denied ever saying he thought a poet should have been on board.

He said: ‘No, I didn’t- if I did, I didn’t- the last thing I would have wanted on our crew was a poet.’

Mr Cassius Clay, you were not the Greatest. As for the Moon:

He described the Moon as ‘devastation’ and said it was: ‘Meteor craters, no color at all. Just different shades of gray.’

And Colonel Borman revealed he had no desire to step foot on the Moon, as Buzz Aldrin did seven months later.

He said: ‘I would have not accepted the risk involved to go pick up rocks. It doesn’t mean that much to me.’

‘Somebody else wanted to do it. Let them take my place. I love my family more than anything in the world.’

Well, perhaps NASA could ask him to compare the Moon with Detroit?

As he said, he loved his family.

‘The dearest things in life that were back on the Earth- my family, my wife, my parents.’

‘They were still alive then. That was, for me, the high point of the flight from an emotional standpoint.’

‘The dearest things in life that were back on the Earth- my family, my wife, my parents.’

‘They were still alive then. That was, for me, the high point of the flight from an emotional standpoint.’

And the mission itself?

Lovell was mesmerized by space and exploration, and wanted desperately to explore the moon. I was there because it was a battle in the Cold War.

‘I wanted to participate in this American adventure of beating the Soviets. But that’s the only thing that motivated me- beat the damn Russians.’

Would he run in 2020?

Those MEPs, eh?

For me, one of the arguments for getting out of the EU (the list of reasons is very long, but this is a Friday, and the pub beckons) was due to the lack of decent democratic accountability of the EU as a structure. That doesn’t of course mean that I am a naive believer in majoritarian democracy (I’m well aware of Tocqueville’s wisdom about the tyranny of the majority). But given that the direction of travel of the EU is towards more centralisation of powers, which may be needed to make the dysfunctional euro work (fiscal transfers, more ability to shuffle money around, etc, etc), such a process requires serious democratic legitimacy. Such a polity does not exist, and an example of its non-existence came this week with the EU Parliament’s vote to agree moves to move against the internet in certain respects.

A big majority of MEPs voted for the directive, and a thousand curses upon them. So here’s a thing: how many European citizens, even if they are interested in this matter around copyright, the internet and use of memes, know who their MEPs are? I’d wager that only a small, single-digit percentage, do. Now I am a Londoner who writes about current affairs a bit and follows these things, and I had to Google up a search to find out who my MEPs are. And given how such MEPs don’t directly represent a constituency as with an MP under our first-past-the-post system but are elected via proportional representation under a list system, there’s no real connection between voters and the chap or woman in suits sitting in the parliament. Add to the fact that the parliament has no great ability to repeal directives as far as I know, and cannot initiative laws, etc, then its value as a break on power appears to be very low indeed. But the parliament does, as this case shows, have the ability to confer a sort of cloak of legitimacy over the law-making engines of the European Commission. The lack of connection between voter and MEP also means the latter’s vote will be a mystery to the electors in whose name the members supposedly act.

There may be other reasons why the UK is leaving the EU that are easier to put into a newspaper headline, but for me this is the sort of reason why the EU is a remote, yet malign force, and not, as far as I can see, a bulwark of anyone’s liberties.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I wasn’t even aware that Corbyn was an expert on the subject of English irony. I always assumed he preferred the robust congeniality of Gerry Adams over the acerbity of a Michael Palin or Ian Hislop. But I am no expert on the mind of Mr Corbyn, which seems like a sort of ball bearing ricocheting around a pinball machine, illuminating one Marxist trope after another. And the face of the Corbyn Labour Party is rarely one that smiles, being both humourless and menacing all at once. It is, after all, the party which includes as High Apparatchiks the likes of Dawn Butler and Emily Thornberry, neither of whom strike one as likely secretaries of the PG Wodehouse Appreciation Society.”

Sean Walsh. The whole article, even though it is about the disgusting subject of the Labour Party leader’s anti-semitism and association with terrorists, is an essay containing several mirthful sentences such as the final one of the paragraph above. My only beef with the comment is that frankly, I don’t find Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, very amusing these days.